Focused Calls: As Easy As 1-2-3-4

February 26, 2017
Mary Jane Copps

woman on phone

Losing control of a phone conversation is a challenge that often comes up in my coaching sessions and workshops. As a conversation expands, one or both parties bounce from topic to topic and the call ends without essential information being shared or the most crucial questions being asked.

How can we prevent this from happening? And how can we make our phone conversations even more effective?

One way to prevent this from happening is to write out, in point form, what you want to achieve on a call. Keep this list in front of you as you speak and refer to it frequently to keep yourself on track. Another way is to use numbers to create a karaoke-type “bouncing ball” that helps everyone stay focused.

How do numbers help you have more focused phone conversations?

Using numbers gives our phone calls an agenda which we share with the other person so they can follow along. For example, I could call a client and say, “I have four questions for you regarding our upcoming workshops.”

The client now focuses on that number – four. They give the call more of their attention because it has a structure and an implied time limit. The distraction of “how long will this call take” is eliminated because we are counting to four and that is unlikely to take very long. 

The numbers are then used during the call to move from item to item (like the bouncing ball), i.e. “The first question is … .” In addition to keeping the conversation focused, the numbers also help everyone make decisions. Because we know we need to get to “four”, everyone easily participates in finding a conclusion for one, two and three.

When we reach “And the fourth question is …” both parties are prepared to end the call. There is much less chance of the conversation wandering away into unessential information.

Over the years I’ve found that three or four questions on a call work best. One or two questions implies that the call is going to be very quick so doesn’t always capture someone’s full attention. More than four questions? The impression created is one of a very long phone call, one that requires specific scheduling, which can result in delays or procrastination.

I’ve enlisted the help of Canadian singer/songwriter Feist – and The Muppets – to help you remember to count to four. Enjoy!



  1. Steve Foran says:

    Fascinating idea.

  2. Natasha Marchewka says:

    YES! WONDERFUL IDEA, PHONE LADY! Simple, yet it sounds highly effective!

  3. […] few notes handy. I’m not suggesting you write out every word of what you want to say, but do write down a few points to help yourself stay focused during your […]

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